We continue with our hippie journey through time back to the 1970s Estonia – the so-called Soviet West, where young people were thrilled by the radical youth movements that had been taking place earlier in the West, and now against the expected Soviet codes of behavior and morals they were seeking their own bitter trajectories towards something that would allow them to feel free within this rigid Soviet system. I’ll introduce you one of the rock’n’roll legends in Estonia – poet Aleksander Müller.
As you read the post, here’s the soundtrack to put on – by Suuk – Statistiline (words by Jonnhy B, vocals Aleksander Müller)
The University town Tartu has always been the intellectual hub in Estonia, so some progressive thought developed here around the poetry evenings at University Café with Ave Alavainu or Johnny B on spot, or the Oriental Cabinet in University of Tartu where Buddhist studies were introduced by Linnart Mäll, or the avant-garde artist group Visarid, where painter Enn Tegova was one of the leading figures.
Enn Tegova, painter in Tartu
Some guys like for example the poet Aleksander Müller took off wild with the principle of “live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse”. He says these vibes were definitely in the air back at the time, as the surrounding politics were so depressive and left no space for hope. His large apartment at Supilinn in Tartu became a legendary place of coming-together to listen bootlegged records, read poetry and talk all the shit that had to be spoken, but couldn’t have done in public. His home formed an important social center for free-thinking and free will in the context of Soviet power along its propaganda machine and overall stagnation. The door was always open, there were always people around. There he had a piano that didn’t have any white keys. Meaning, all the keys where covered with cigarette butts black spots! And according to a rumor, Müller started drinking constantly since he was 15, he was a god damn rock’n’roll spirit. He later became a well-known blues musician, but in 1970s he was involved with psychedelic rock music.
Aleksander Müller in front of his legendary old house in Tartu, summer 2012. By the time, he was already pretty week and couldn’t move himself, so he’s being carried by another poet Päärn Hint.
Music making certainly became one of the few sources of joy at the time, or the means to express the hate, the anger against the established system. But this social criticism, of course, had to be always served hidden, hidden behind the lines of poetry, in metaphors, as the punishments could become very real.
At some point in 1970s, Müller Sass joined a psychedelic rock band Suuk from Tartu as a singer. Suuk has often been compared to The Doors, as it sounds tripping, rebellious, destructive and liberating at the same time. But different from Jim Morrison who actually put in practice his principle of “live fast, die young” belonging to the “club 27”, Sass lived much longer. He passed away just recently on the 4th of July 2013. We all knew his soul was going straight to the wide heavenly cosmos and this comet deserved some celebration.
We were actually the very last ones who interviewed him last summer for the Soviet hippies exhibition and documentary. And oh, this rock’n’roll legend seemed so very happy to chill around on a wheelchair at the massive exhibition opening, to enjoy his 4cl of cognac, and to experience that finally his bitter pain and sorrow and the inner burning sunshine has made it to the local cultural history, right there at Estonian National Museum!
At the opening of the exhibition “Soviet hippies: The Psychedelic Underground of 1970s Estonia”. Photo by Merilyn Püss
Listen to the full album of Suuk recorded in 1976 in Tartu here with comments in Estonian from Aleksander Müller. The band Suuk, as the host of the broadcast Jaan Tootsen says, is a band which by all parameters of the time could not have possibly existed in Soviet Union. And no-one would even believe that the band existed, if we didn’t have this remarkable recording from 1976 that only happened only coincidentally when Estonian Radio stereo-bus came down to Tartu to take this recording.
Rest in peace and in rock’n’roll, Aleksander Müller (1947-2013).